2011 Annual Comments and Commentators Awards!


Or at least my award selections based on comments on my own posts; my fellow posters can organize their own ceremonies if they are so led. Internet blogging is a new way of writing. The blogger writes something and then almost instantly people all over the world can suggest changes and make counter-arguments, to which the blogger may or may not respond. The revised post technically remains the blogger’s and yet in at least some cases could better be thought off as a multi-authored essay for which only one person is receiving credit.

Because we bloggers become so wealthy and famous from our work, it is often thought that we forget those who improve our writing through their comments. True perhaps in some corners, but not here at RBC. To wit, I hereby recognize distinction in commenting with these prestigious awards:

RBC COMMENTERS OF THE YEAR AWARD

Envelope please (Insert sound of audience holding breath as envelope is torn open). And the winner is…wait, ladies and gentlemen, it’s not just one winner! It’s a tie!!

Alejandro Hope and Katja, who had different approaches to commenting, in my opinion added the most value through this year with their excellent comments. Katja commented more frequently, most commonly by making brief but trenchant remarks about matters related to the UK and Continental Europe. Alejandro commented less frequently, but his comments, which usually related to Mexico and/or drug policy (see one here) were unusually long and data-packed. And both of this year’s co-awardees were extraodinarily civil, even in some cases when other commenters did not pay them the same courtesy. Thank you very much and congratulations to Katja and Alejandro!

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN SAVING THE POSTER’S BACON AWARD

Envelope please.

In late September, I wrote a post about base rates, prediction errors and the likelihood of President Obama being re-elected. My lunch break was near its end and I had to go teach a class, so rather than review my post a final time I published what I had written. It included four errors, which were caught by Marcel, Ed Whitney, Warren Terra and Herschel, respectively. None of the errors threatened the basic argument of the post, but there were nonetheless sloppy mistakes which I was chagrined to have made.

I was grateful to these sharp-eyed commenters at the time, but became even moreso in the coming days. The post was picked up by Washington Monthly and then by The Atlantic and then by New York Times. My errors would have been multiplied many times over if they hadn’t been caught here first. Thank you all, and do please spend your prize money wisely.

COMMENT EXCHANGE THAT MADE ME LAUGH THE HARDEST AWARD

Envelope please.

Having honored commenting at its best, I will recognize the exchange that showed commenting at its worst but was redeemed by being unintentionally hilarious. It happened at Washington Monthly and you can read it here, but to synopsize:

Goldilocks: I hate Humphreys’ post, it’s stupid and wrong and he is stupid and [On and on and on for paragraphs]

Dr. BioBrain: The article doesn’t say what you say it says.

Goldilocks: “Doctor Biobrain’s comment has induced me to read Professor Humphreys’ article.” (followed by 5 paragraphs of writing).

Anonymous (to Goldilocks): You wrote all that bile in your first comment without even reading the article?

Goldilocks: Yes.

Something about that one word answer after 10 paragraphs of diabtribe made me laugh for days. So, thanks and congratulations. Sort of.

AWARD FOR BLASTING A GROSSLY MISINFORMED POST THAT WAS IN FACT GROSSLY MISINFORMED

Envelope please.

I have never watched FoxNews. Based on reading European newspapers in which FoxNews executives discussed openly that their network is there to crush liberalism and promote conservatism, I assumed wrongly that this political mission is also acknowledged explicitly on the network itself. I said that in this grossly misinformed post, and the commenters pointed out that I was completely off base (The post actually appeared at the very end of 2010, but was so bad that it stank into 2011, so I am giving it this year’s award anyway.). Thank you and congratulations to those who, unlike me, had their facts straight.

AND LAST, NOT AN AWARD BUT A REQUEST TO ALL RBCERS

As I read through many comments to judge these awards, I noticed that we are in the very top rank of websites in terms of the low proportion of comments that (a) are spam or (b) contain character assassination, vitriol, offensive language etc. Because RBC has no dedicated staff to patrol the comment section, we depend on all of our readers to help us implement a “broken windows” policy. If you see an inappropriate comment that should be deleted, please flag it immediately in the comments section or by email so that we can delete it and thereby maintain our community standard of civil and informed debate.

THANKS TO ALL WHO COMMENTED IN 2011 AND A HAPPY 2012 TO ALL!!!

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College Lonon. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over ten thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

4 thoughts on “2011 Annual Comments and Commentators Awards!”

  1. I’ve often thought “What if I were to win a SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN SAVING THE POSTER’S BACON AWARD” and now that I have, I don’t know what to say.

  2. Bravo and Brava, people! Keep up the good work.

    For my part, I also really appreciate Mrs. Tilton, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Bernard Yomtov (who changed his handle). And Bruce W. Lot of brainiacs around here. I learn a lot.

    And thanks to you, Keith, for turning me onto “magic socks” (aka compression hose). *Total* game changer, for travel and marathon shopping days. I have become an evangelist, even a bore, on the subject. (Fyi, kids, did you know you have to measure your legs first? Take a tape measure!)

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